O’Neill recognizes that this transition requires long-term commitment. Not everyone is convinced of the merits of neighborhood policing, and sometimes there is little he can do to change their minds. For that reason, O’Neill works to ensure that the message gets through at the Police Academy, so that the newest generation of officers enter the workforce with the right mindset. “For the new people coming out of the academy it is easier,” he says. “Now this is what they do; what they understand is neighborhood policing.”
And neighborhood policing is not the only change that the NYPD has had to adjust to. Like many departments, the NYPD is learning to use new technology like drones and predictive algorithms to police more effectively. Again, though, O’Neill stresses that technology is a means to an end, and does not itself signal progress. “You could have the best technology in the world, [but] unless those cops have a connection to the people where they’re working, it’s not going to be a force multiplier,” he says. Some new tools like the Sentiment Meter, which collects localized data about residents’ perception of the police, may help to evaluate and improve that connection.